It's not winter yet - but it is time to cosy up at home as the leaves fall outside. This month is all about flickering fires, warming spiced drinks, and getting ready for the colder months by making the most of autumn.
And while it may not have occurred to you that a bit of foraging can help you run a more eco and budget-friendly household, here's four brilliant home and beauty hacks that use the very best of autumn.
1 Make conker shampoo
You can use conkers instead of shampoo to wash your hair. It's all-natural, and won't cost a penny.
Conkers contain the same soap-like substance as soap nuts. Soap nuts have been used to wash laundry or to make body wash in India for generations. This has naturally led to a growing demand for soap nuts and, in turn, has made them very expensive for many nations to import, as well as leaving quite the carbon footprint.
But conkers have very similar properties and are falling off the trees all month. Collect as many as you can to preserve throughout the year.
Cut the conkers into quarters and smash them with a rolling pin.
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As an optional next step, place the crushed conkers into a powerful blender to turn them into a powder-like texture. Finally, dry them out by leaving them on low heat (140 degrees) in the oven for up to two hours.
Add 1 tbsp of your dried conker mix with 240ml of warm water and leave overnight. In the morning, you should see a creamy, milk-like mixture. Once you have this, it is ready to be used as a shampoo or even detergent.
Store the rest in an airtight container and keep dry till you need it.
2 Make a pumpkin face mask
Not the Halloween kind, the beauty kind.
Save your pumpkin to help reduce the appearance of wrinkles and tighten skin. The unique ingredients in pumpkin seeds can help to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and tighten the skin, provide antioxidant benefits and deliver beta carotene, amino acids and fruit enzymes. It's also non-toxic and easy, so it's worth a go.
Puree the pumpkin pulp in a food processor until smooth.
Grind half a tablespoon of pumpkin seeds in a pestle and mortar or blender.
Add half a teaspoon of honey with two teaspoons of skimmed milk and one egg and mix with one tablespoon of pumpkin pulp. Apply this mixture to the face and neck and leave on for twenty minutes, then rinse with water.
3 Repel spiders with cinnamon
According to compelling anecdotal evidence, cinnamon can repel spiders, and keep them away from your home. They seem to dislike the scent, and many natural bug sprays and repellents contain the spice.
It's easy to do it yourself however, by sprinkling the powder around skirting boards and windowframes.
It gets rid of other intruders, too. "Ground cinnamon is a natural repellent to ants and other bugs that may roam the kitchen," says pest control expert Jordan Foster.
Cinnamon supposedly doesn't just scare away spiders but also cockroaches, fruit flies, rats, wasps, earwigs, silverfish, mosquitoes, and even bed bugs.
With repeated use, it may help to repel spiders all year round.
4 Collect fallen leaves for mulch
Fallen leaves can be collected as mulch (or ‘gardeners gold’).
Evie Lane, Gardening Expert at Primrose says: “One of the key benefits of organic mulch is that it helps improve a soil's structure, improves drainage and water holding capacity at the same time.
"While being a source of feed for useful microorganisms, it also keeps weeds well below the surface, where most will die due to the lack of sunlight."
Get your rake out and collect as many fallen leaves as possible. Check through for any leaves that are diseased and remove them. The chief symptoms for this on leaves are that they may be yellow, have snow white powdery blotches or develop spots.
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Shred the rest of the leaves. The best way to do this is to let them dry first. Once dry, use a lawnmower to chop them into little pieces. Dried leaves as mulch break down more quickly and shred easily.
Lane adds: “In British winters, it’s likely that plants fall victim to turbulent weather which can cause movement and roots to be exposed to damaging frosty temperatures. Mulch helps regulate temperatures preventing too much variation and can sometimes increase average temperature. Mulch helps to protect your plants from the onslaught of a British winter, helping rain penetrate the soil and adding an extra surface of the insulation.”
Finally, place the leaves in your flower beds in a layer about 2 to 3 inches thick. And wait for spring.
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